Brendan McKay is primed for big things. The college athlete is among the most buzzed-about names heading into the 2017 MLB draft, where is it rumored that he may end up being the number one pick.
McKay, who plays for The University of Louisville, is considered an equally elite prospect as both a left-handed pitcher and a hitting first baseman, making him a rarity in the world of college baseball. As a result, the question posed by USA Today is not whether McKay will be drafted, but whether teams will use him for his arm or his bat.
Read on to learn more about McKay, his professional career, and the teams that are rumored to pick him up.
1. He Was Named the Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year in High School
McKay was born on December 18th, 1995 to parents Bruce and Kim McKay. According to NCAA, McKay could often be found glued to the television as a boy, watching either the Little League World Series or the College World Series. “We knew then that he lives baseball,” said his father Bruce, who added they that would spend many an evening practicing in the empty lot in front of their house.
McKay attended Blackhawk High School in Chippewa, Pennsylvania, where this passion for the game resulted in numerous accolades. In 2014, Penn Live reported that McKay went 8-1 with an 0.56 ERA and 130 strikeouts. He also threw 72 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, currently the second-longest streak in national history, while hitting over .400 as a position player.
McKay was subsequently named the Gatorade Player of the Year in both 2013 and 2014, the latter of which was his senior year in high school.
2. He Was Drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2014, But Chose to Attend the University of Louisville
After graduating from Blackhawk High School, McKay was being touted as a top prospect by the MLB. He discussed the notion of playing in the majors with The Courier-Journal, saying “You start out as a freshman just playing varsity, and now you have the possibility of going to play professional or going to play at a top college like Louisville. It’s a great experience, and it’s kind of nerve-wracking not knowing what’s going to happen.”
That being said, if McKay wasn’t drafted in the first two rounds of the 2014 MLB draft, he said that he’d probably end up going to college instead. “That’s about my cutoff,” he explained, adding that he’d be “extremely happy” to play for The University of Louisville instead. The San Diego Padres would go on to draft McKay in the 34th round of the draft, and he made good on his word by attending Louisville on a full scholarship.
In an interview with the San Diego Tribune, former Padres scout director Billy Gasparino detailed the team’s interaction with McKay. “We did a great job of identifying Brendan maybe a little bit before the industry got going on him. We liked the body, the arm action, the delivery and the curveball. We felt like there was more to come. We tried hard… We made a pretty sizable offer. To the family’s credit, they were very good to deal with.They just really wanted him to go to school, and it’s worked out great for them.”
3. He’s Won 3 Consecutive John Olerud Awards
During his time at Louisville, McKay set a new standard for two-way players, or players with more than one unique skillset on the field. As a pitcher during his freshman year, he went 9-3 with a 1.77 ERA, 117 strikeouts and four saves. As a first baseman, he hit .308 with four home runs and 34 RBI. This combined success led to McKay winning the John Olerud Award in 2015, which is given to the best two-way player of the season.
McKay would go on to become first college player in history to win two John Olerud Awards in 2016, a record he would break the following year when he won a third time. NCAA reports that during McKay’s 2017 season, he went 10-3 with a 2.34 ERA and set a Louisville record with 140 strikeouts in 104 innings pitched. He finished his college career with the all-time record for strikeouts at Louisville, tallying up 385 over his three seasons.
In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, McKay said that while his dream is to become an MLB player, he knows that the dream is difficult, and is grateful for his time at Louisville: “You’ve got to be thinking through every lift of weights, every practice, every scrimmage that you have to put everything you have into it. You also have to think that a lot of your sports ability can be taken away at any moment with one freak accident. You have to be conscious of that.”
4. He is Currently the Nation’s Top Two-Way Player
McKay’s abilities as both a pitcher and a hitter have made him something of a rarity in the sport. In a piece by ESPN, writer Jerry Crasnick notes that: “Inevitably, two-way phenoms have been forced to make a choice, because it would be too difficult to ply both skills on a regular basis. But that assumption might soon be tested by an ambitious Louisville Cardinal.”
Dan McDonnell, the head coach for Louisville, also feels that McKay could be the player who bucks the trend of being used exclusively for his arm or his bat: “I don’t know if he’s the No. 1 college pitcher in the country. Let’s just say he’s in the top three to five. I don’t know if he’s the top college hitter in the country. Let’s just say he’s in the top three to five. So you’re getting two players with one pick and one dollar value.”
McDonnell added: “How you use him is your choice. You’re getting a starting rotation pitcher that you hope can give you 200 innings a year and a left-handed power bat. Man, it’s exciting.”
5. The Minnesota Twins Are the Rumored Favorite to Draft McKay
Among the MLB teams that are interested in drafting McKay, the most prominent has been the Minnesota Twins. MLB.com reports that the Twins, who have the first overall pick in the draft, had favored McKay over fellow prospect Kyle Wright in recent weeks. Read the assessment of MLB writer Jim Callis below:
“Though the teams selecting behind the Twins think they’re leaning toward Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright, I started hearing whispers Thursday night that Minnesota prefers Louisville two-way star Brendan McKay. That noise is getting louder Friday, and I now believe the Twins will take McKay No. 1, as a left-handed pitcher rather than a first baseman, unless California high school righty Hunter Greene overwhelms them in his visit to Target Field on Friday afternoon.”
On Monday, Yahoo! Sports writer Jeff Passan provided the the latest insight into the Twins’ decision, saying that are considering either McKay or high school shortstop Royce Lewis for their number one pick. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Twins would be picking up McKay as a pitcher.
McKay’s parents have stated that they have no favored team heading into the draft. “I don’t think we can get too glued on one team,” his mother Kim tells NCAA, “Because the way the industry is, he could be somewhere else in a couple of years.”
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